"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Brown is Dying, and Friedman Lives On

In 1954 SCOTUS declared in a 9-0 decision that separate schools are inherently unequal.  And thus began the beginning of the end for Jim Crow.  But Old Jim has proven to be very resilient, and even today his grandson, James Crow, Jr. Esq. continues the racist work of his grandfather.   Old Jim has had many allies between the segregated schools of the 1950s and the segregated schools of the 2010s.

One year after the Brown Decision of 1954, faux libertarian economist Milton Friedman published a book chapter that attempted to rationalize publicly funded vouchers for anyone to choose a school based on personal preference, regardless of how racist the motivation or how anti-democratic the outcome.  Friedman's argument has provided the ideological basis for corporate welfare queens and supremacists to insist, for generations now, on the use of public dollars for segregated schooling.

In 1962, Friedman compounded his earlier thought disorder by making the claim that racism is essentially on par with personal preferences, no matter how much we may agree or disagree with them.  

Is there any difference in principle between the taste that leads a householder to prefer an attractive servant to an ugly one and the taste that leads another to prefer a Negro to a white or a white to a Negro, except that we sympathize and agree with the one taste and may not agree with the other? I do not mean to say that all tastes are equally good. I believe strongly that the color of a man's skin or the religion of his parents is, by itself, no reason to treat him differently; that a man should be judged by what he is and what he does and not be these external characteristics. I deplore what seem to me the prejudice and narrowness of outlook of those whose tastes differ from mine in this respect and I think the less of them for it. But in a society based on free discussion, the appropriate recourse is for me to seek to persuade them that their tastes are bad and that they should change their views and their behavior, not to use coercive power to enforce my tastes and my attitudes on others. Source: Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman, p.111 , Nov 15, 1962
Did Friedman actually believe that racism has no impact beyond the words that are used to express it?  Or did he simply care more for racists' rights than the rights of the victims of racism?  How could he actually believe that government should be coerced to pay for racists to choose segregated schools and not be compelled to protect the rights of those who remain the victims of discriminatory acts?

The bigger question remains:  how could such bankrupt notions continue to be used to rationalize another generation of Jim Crow schooling practices?

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